He looks like a child, but by the time the war began, Theodrick “Tod” Carter was 20 years old and a lawyer with a promising future. When Tod’s older brother, Moscow, decided to raise a company of men from around Franklin, Tennessee to support the Confederate war effort, Tod joined what would become Company H of the 20th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry.
For more than two years, Tod’s service was largely unremarkable...except for his side gig as a war correspondent for the Chattanooga Daily Rebel under the pen name Mint Julep.
All of that changed on November 25, 1863 when Tod’s 20th Tennessee was defending Missionary Ridge outside of Chattanooga. Union General George Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland rushed the commanding Confederate positions high on the mountain ridge overlooking Chattanooga. Confederates abandoned their positions and fled east in a route. At least the lucky ones did. The unlucky ones were dead, wounded or captured. Tod was among the latter.
By this time in the war, both sides had largely given up the rather ineffective policy of paroling captured soldiers---sending them home on their own recognizance with their pledge not to take up arms against the enemy until they had been formally exchanged. Instead, large prisoner of war camps had been established, north and south. Tod Carter was heading for one of those camps, Johnson Island outside of Sandusky, Ohio.
Prisoner of war camps were bleak places at best, death traps at worst. But Tod survived Johnson Island and was in the process of being transferred to Point Lookout, another prisoner of war camp, located outside of Baltimore, Maryland, when he escaped from the train transporting him.
He was in the wilderness of Pennsylvania, alone and hunted, but Tod was determined to find his unit. He made his way on foot over 600 miles to Dalton, Georgia where he found the 20th Tennessee and rejoined his original unit in the Army of Tennessee.
Two months after the fall of Atlanta to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on September 2, 1864, Sherman set off on his March to the Sea and the Confederate commander of the Army of Tennessee, General John Bell Hood decided to strike at Sherman’s supply line rather than follow him to Savannah. So Hood turned his back on Sherman, and started north to Nashville.
Among the soldiers marching north into the Middle Tennessee towns of Columbia and Spring Hill was Captain Tod Carter. He was close to home. Perhaps he had despaired of seeing his family ever again. But in his pocket was a furlough allowing him leave from the army to spend precious little time with his family.
Carter House tour guide Brad Kinnison explains that in Franklin, in a small, overcrowded brick house next to the main street leading into town from the south, the Carter family gathered, knowing that Tod’s old unit must be close by. They may have known that Tod wasn’t dead as they had first feared when his horse had returned to the regiment riderless after the Battle of Missionary Ridge, but how could they know that their intrepid son had escaped from a train, and traveled across country to join up with his old unit?
On November 30, 1864, Tod Carter was still with his unit when General Hood decided to launch an attack against entrenched Federal forces in Franklin. The large frontal assault was launched against the center of the Union line, which happened to stretch across the land owned by Tod’s father, Fountain Branch Carter.
Tod was part of what has been called the Pickett’s Charge of the West. Legend has it that as the 20th Tennessee approached the Union lines dug across the Carter family property, Tod shouted to his comrades, “I’m almost home! Come with me boys!”
Only 525 feet from the home in which he grew up, Tod Carter was hit by 9 bullets and lay in the family’s garden severely wounded.
After the battle, as the Union troops moved northward toward the safety of the Union garrison at Nashville, Confederate soldiers sought out Fountain Branch Carter to inform him that Tod had been engaged in the battle and had fallen on the family’s property.
Tod was brought home and laid in a bedroom just across the hall from the room in which he was born. After a journey of hundreds of miles that stretched to Ohio, Georgia and back to little Franklin, Tennessee, Tod Carter died in the comfort of his family’s bullet ridden home on December 2, 1864 at the age of 24.
Capt. Tod Carter’s Tragic Death, A Life Lost Too Soon
Captain Tod Carter
Check out the young adult historical fiction novel Tod Comes Home by Nancy Gentry.
Toni is a wife, mom and history buff who loves bringing the Civil War to life for family members of all ages.